“In the past, for reasons I try to explain, I’ve often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was up on a wire without a net. Now I’m letting my guard down.” —Hillary Rodham Clinton, from the introduction of What Happened
I just finished reading Secretary Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened. It is currently Number One on Amazon, outselling even Stephen King’s It and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale at this moment. Put another way- hardcover sales of the book are the highest for any non-fiction book in the past five years.
I’ve written several times during the past year regarding Hillary Clinton and the election of 2016. About the real meaning of “sanctity of life”—living a full life and voting for a candidate who believed in that for everyone, including women’s right to choose and also about the process of those trying to silence her/ shame her/ not listen to her and how she refused to be silenced.
Devastated after the election I wrote a post here on FAR. And months afterward, I wrote how many of us were not “over it” and were not “ready to play nice.” We, along with Secretary Clinton, are not “ready to play nice” still. And probably will not ever be. We may be willing to (as I will speak of later) lead with love and kindness—but that is different from “playing nice.”
Thank God/ or Goddess.
Even now, when it is all over and we lost the most qualified person ever to run for the position of President—and someone who ran one of the most historic races in history/herstory being the first female candidate of a major party—there are those (many) who want her to shut up. However, even though there are those calls from familiar detractors, her book, as I wrote in the first paragraph is setting sales records.
Most of us, apparently do want to know what (the hell) happened.
What does Hillary have to say now about what happened during and after the election? A lot actually—and she’s not holding back. However, this is not a book about grudges or raking over old coals. This is a book by a proud American Democrat, a history making individual (reminder again: the first woman to ever be the Presidential nominee by a major party) who wants nothing less than to save our democracy. If this sounds overly simplistic and a bit too patriotic—read the book. The chapter on Russian intervention (“Trolls, Bots, Fake News, and Real Russians”) in our election is worth the price of admission.
As is the information on the amount of harm that voter suppression, that happened because of the repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, by the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts in 2013, caused not just to Hillary’s campaign but to American citizens’ fundamental right to cast a ballot.
Why, for instance, the book asked, was the Voting Rights Act repealed? Because Roberts argued that “racism was a thing of the past.” (see p. 419) This last election was the first to take place without the Voting Rights Act in place. It had been in place since 1965. There are facts throughout the book regarding what happened, in many other areas of governmental and election foul play, much like this egregious fallout on American citizenry regarding voting. I am elaborating here on just the information in What Happened regarding the Voting Rights Act to give a flavor of the things we thought we knew—but did we know this? I didn’t. I knew the Voting Rights Act had been repealed—but did not know until reading Secretary Clinton’s book, the extent of damage to the election—not just to her results, but again, to the citizenry. It stuns, horrifies, and scares me—yes, for our democracy.
Consider the following, “By 2016 fourteen states had new restrictions on voting, including burdensome ID requirements aimed at weeding out students, poor people, the elderly and people of color.” (p. 419)
Early voting was curtailed, same day registration and language assistance scrapped—and large numbers of voters were purged from the rolls. Ohio alone removed over two million voters since 2011. And consider this, also from the book’s detailed fact filled pages regarding this matter, “much of this national effort was led by Kansas secretary Kris Cobach, who runs a Suppression Initiative called the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program. He was recently fined for misleading the court, but now is the vice chair of the new commission Trump has created to deal with the phantom ‘epidemic’ of voting fraud.” (p. 419)
Never mind that out of a billion votes cast between 2000 and 2014, only 31 cases of possible fraud were discovered. In the last election, The Washington Post found only 4 fraudulent votes, and one of those was an Iowa woman who voted twice for Trump.
In Wisconsin, these new laws reduced turnout by 200,000 votes. Clinton lost the state by less than 23,000 votes. This, my friends, is What Happened.
I go into detail on this point because also consider this:
Here in California I went in and voted, showed no ID and waited maybe half an hour to vote because there were many polling places and mine was a 5-minute drive from my house. Why did voters in Cincinnati have to show several forms of ID, many were turned away and this happened in primarily African American districts? Again– what (the hell) happened?
Hillary Clinton is showing us. She is showing us that this is, among many other atrocities, what happened. It’s not an ax to grind—she is genuinely concerned about the future of our country and the future of democracy. Don’t kill the messenger—I want to say to those who (including liberal friends who voted third party, etc.) don’t want to “re-hash the election.”
If an electrical fire started in your house, and you managed to put it out but you didn’t know where it started in the first place, and there was a danger of it starting again—you would want to find the source of danger and make sure you had it under control. It’s not rehashing if you must find out where the fire started and make sure it won’t start again.
I’ve written several blogs for this site on what to do after this devastating rise of Trump and his cronies to places of power. I wrote about what to do after the Women’s March and what to do after the first 100 days of Trump’s miserable performance on the national stage.
What Happened is a much more nuanced, detailed, forthright and forward-thinking blueprint for action. The final two chapters “Love and Kindness” and “Onward Together” show us a side of Secretary Clinton that those of us who have loved her and supported her for years always knew was there—but maybe a new side of her for those who have viewed her with suspicion. She has already started an organization to help and support up and coming groups that will support, people in need, among other efforts, Democratic candidates— Onward Together. This organization will help particularly women and people of color as well as supporting organizations that will make the world overall a better place for everyone. One of the first organizations benefiting from Onward Together is Colors of Change. Their mission is to design “campaigns powerful enough to end practices that unfairly hold black people back…” Obviously this is needed now more than ever, if you consider the major impact the repeal of for instance the Voting Rights Act had on African Americans and their civil right to vote.
Secretary Clinton is deeply concerned about Trump’s ties to Russia, yes, but she is also concerned that we remember as a country how to be kinder. As a Methodist, her lifelong motto has been, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
I remember from the Women’s March that my favorite sign was “Make American Kind Again”. (You can see it in my photo document of the event here).
Our home is one where we have Hillary memorabilia displayed proudly—we still even have a lawn sign up. These are not “souvenirs” to me. They’re symbols of hope—and of moving forward with a champion by my side—a public intellectual, and a believer in the fact that yes, “love trumps hate.”
One big way we can make American kind again is to figure out as deeply, thoroughly and authentically what happened in 2016’s election—and ensure it does not happen again.
Photos by: Kimberly Esslinger
Book Cover cached from web
Marie Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University. She is the author of the critically acclaimed book Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall (Routledge 2013). She is a senior lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies and Queer Studies at California State University Northridge, and in Film Studies at Univ. of CA Irvine.